What’s the point of Fianna Fáil entering Northern Irish politics?

Forget, for a moment, the meandering on-off speculation. Will Fianna Fáil walk its Republican talk and displace Sinn Fein’s credentials as Ireland’s only all-island political party?  It’s the wrong question. Northern Ireland already has plenty of political parties – what’s needed, urgently, is new ideas.

Sure, Fianna Fáil could organize and fight elections in the wee six. But the minimum price of entry must be higher. Fianna Fáil faces a simple choice in the north: Change Northern Ireland or be changed by Northern Ireland.

Can Fianna Fáil help N. Ireland overcome its biggest challenges?

Three long-standing problems have strangled the potential of this part of the world for far too long. Let’s consider each in turn.

First, Northern Ireland’s economy resembles a tribute to the worst statism of Soviet Europe. As Shane rightly notes, the reliance on a massive public sector is unsustainable.

Perhaps no London administration will ever risk the social instability that would follow a half-baked Belfast experiment in economic ‘shock therapy’.  Perhaps. Either way, living off massive British, EU and philanthropic subsidies is a recipe for forever hemorrhaging too many of our best while incentivizing some of our worst to reinvent protection rackets in the name of “community work”.

Second, a democratic deficit restricts local elections to the politics of the playground.  It’s not that Northern Irish voters have no interest in the central questions that energize and polarize citizens across the democratic world; they simply have little to no say in them.

If voters in Finchley are worried about levels of taxation, foreign policy or public services they know their vote will elect a candidate with the potential to affect the national conversation, perhaps even becoming Prime Minister. Voters in Finaghy harbor no such delusions.

Third: sectarianism. All societies have their prejudices, sure, but some are considerably more deeply divided than others. Following a recent working visit to Belfast, an American social researcher offered some arresting observations on N. Ireland’s local cancer of choice.  “I’ve studied peace processes in El Salvador, South Africa and Colombia. In all three places some of the violence was more brutal. But in Northern Ireland, people continue to really hate each other.”

I like to think he’s wrong. But, centuries later, in a first world country, we really need to sharpen up, no?

So, if the 3 Ss, socialism, seclusion and sectarianism, are our problems, where might we find some solutions? Certainly not from our current parties. What might Fianna Fáil say?

Fianna Fáilers….Any experience with a state-centric economy going nowhere? 8 decades worth! You do?! You’ve helped develop one of the most entrepreneurial cultures in the Western World by playing up the best aspects of Irish culture? Interesting.

So, what are your thoughts on our growing sense that Westminster is too remote, removed and uninterested in local Irish problems? It’s your raison d’être? And yet you’ve more cordial relations with London than Ulster’s unionists? Wait, I’m confused. Tell us more…

But what about sectarianism? Isn’t it intractable, ineradicable, and forever to be a permanent feature of our landscape? Hang on, what’s that now? Dublin has become a diverse, tolerant and modern European capital. …Stay a while, no one talk like this up here.

NI doesn’t need a new party. We need a whole new voice in the conversation.

Northern Ireland faces no big problem Dublin hasn’t had to overcome. We don’t need southern Irish parties to join our dreary debate, we need them to help change it.

Fianna Fáil, if you’re gonna come, go big or go home.



Strategic Communications Consultant, located Washington DC

  • mickfealty

    No graffiti please. Keep it up and you’ll be blacklisted…

    Good post Ruarai, but I think the lack of comment and interest in the story tells you loads about the problem.

    Whilst I think Martin has put his finger on important problems which have further come to light under Cahill, the prospect lacks resonance amongst people. I hope this gets the broader reading it deserves.

  • Croiteir

    I cannot see Fianna Fáil coming north for at least one electoral cycle. They have enough problems of their own staying relevant in the south being squeezed by Fine Gael and Sinn Fein. For one, and a big one, to bring more problems on themselves will not be seen as a wise move despite the emotional pull. Another is the difficulty on how to organise, they have tried and failed miserably in the recent past, I wonder if the Doc can elucidate us on that venture, I have not heard from their Down, Fermanagh, Armagh for a short of the opening splashes the got in the press, are they knocking local doors? I have not heard of it. In fact the only attempt at proselytising I know about was a leaflet of the Andytown Rd when an intercounty match was on. But even the Belfast FF has died. But they seemed to exist only in the nebulous world of social media so that tells you plenty. But enough of bashing dressed as background, I would never stoop to that.
    They do need a unique selling point, well let me see what has been offered.
    Socialism – they are not socialist despite the protestation of Da Bert. In fact to me they are close to distributists, a welcome alternative but in the bearpit of local politics is that enough? I do not think so.
    Sectarianism – so they are not sectarian? This is an interesting one. In this region to take a position that is not pro union politically or indeed culturally is a sectarian act, or at least anti-unionist which is synonymous with anti-Protestant for some reason. So by the very act of being nationalist you are instantly painted as sectarian. So that will be a fail.
    Seclusion – maybe, but not really. The region is linked with London which means it cannot but be a secluded backwater, it is as simple as that. It cannot partake in any international decisions, that would be reserved matter, for our political equivalent of Fr Teds bishop in London, our politics by definition is restricted to six counties and the microcosm of the physical boundary will be reflected by the politics. That should not be surprising for anyone. Fianna Fail my be able to bring experience of international politics to thetable but will it be able to do anything with it? I doubt it, Stormont is not capable of dealing with it.
    The only thing that FF can bring is the same as what SF. Ministries either side of the border that can synchronise. But that will soon not be unique.
    So I cannot see what they can really say, apart from not being socialist, is their unique selling point that is relevant to running a big council.
    The single most debilitating issue that hurts the region is its existence. If you want it to prosper get rid of it. perhaps FF can bring unionism to its sense by showing them that their is not much to fear from being weaned of the back tit. I do not think so. So no – nothing much will change here as the region has built in stasis. A new party will not change that fundamental in my view. It will just offer a different ideological slant.

  • $33309652

    Fianna Failure bankrupted the Country at least twiice. ( that’s excluding DeValera)
    Forcing mass emigration on the island..Two times.
    More than 50,000 “disappeared” and you want to spare their blushes.
    That sounds about right.
    They are filth. Absolute other filth that party.
    But you just keep worrying about Sinn Fein..That’s your boogie man.
    Fianna fail are the most dangerous party in Ireland…But you keep giving them an easy ride.
    Ban me if you like.
    I couldn’t giv a to$$
    My comments on here don’t make a difference That’s why they are allowed.

  • Qub Ógra Fianna Fáil

    Ógra Fianna Fáil has already begun this discussion. Ógra holds an annual Summer School each year. As Ireland’s largest all-Ireland youth wing, organised across 32 counties, the Summer School has previously been held in Derry in 2009 and Belfast in 2010. William Drennan Cumann, QUB Fianna Fáil The Republican Party hosted this event again in 2014 on Saturday 5th July in QUBSU.

    As part of the Summer School, Seminars/Events were held during the day, such as Ireland’s Energy Future, Education in Ireland, the Economics of an all-Ireland Economy and the future of Irish Republicanism. One thing is for certain, when FF organises in the North it will not be a “top down” affair Ruaraí, it will require the ideas of those based in the North to drive it forward and present a political platform. We have already begun the conversation, economically and socially we can present a different view from established northern nationalism. However, in the spirit of the entrepreneurialism you speak of, its up to those in the North to drive the agenda.

  • Qub Ógra Fianna Fáil

    @Mick, the article was only posted last night and members of FF are only seeing it now – no need to give the impression that there is somehow a lack of interest! FFers don’t “shoot from the hip” like other more impulsive political animals – careful measured response is required to this topic is required.

  • Morpheus

    “Fianna Fáil, if you’re gonna come, go big or go home.”

    Love the sentiment but I wonder how FF would be received by the electorate here in Northern Ireland. Will they be welcomed as ‘the’ republican party without the baggage of “The Troubles” or will the common consensus be ‘where the hell have you been since partition?’

    My gut feeling says the latter.

  • $33309652

    Do you lot have an Ogra Jack Lynch Branch?
    to “celebrabte” the Gombean who bankrupted Ireland in the 1970’s.
    and led to Ireland having a debt/GDP ratio of 108%.
    Surely you must celebrate that magnificent achievement..which led to mass emigrations.
    Any of that sound familar?
    Well it should do.
    Just go away FF.
    Do One.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “My comments on here don’t make a difference That’s why they are allowed.”

    When I was passing Short Strand on the day of our last election, someone had painted up “If voting changed anything they’d ban it”, the paint still glistening wet. After an hour of retail therapy at the M & S food hall (yes, I know…), heading back down by the corner with the big graffiti, I noticed two grey clad men with a grey van painting over it very fast.

    Its simply amazing just how quickly you can get things done in the wee six when it might just set people thinking the “wrong” thoughts……….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I wish I knew! I could do with a few days away from the easel making some real money ( for a change) with my paintbrush………

  • mickfealty

    First under the new system to be blacklisted, goodbye…